Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Makes Trans Iowa So Damn Difficult - According to Paul! Part 1

Warning... long post.

First a bit of history.

In 1999, at my 10 year high school reunion a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to run the Chicago Marathon. We had 8 weeks before the race and I hadn't run most of the summer. About 10 sheets to the wind I said that I would love to run it with him. Eight weeks later I ran the Chicago Marathon. Throughout the years to 2004 I ran a marathon or three a year. I realized, while not fast, endurance was my thing.

In April of 2005 one of my best friends, Jim McGuire, talked to me about the Trans Iowa bike race. In high school I rode quite a bit (and I still have that 1985 Panasonic Sport just waiting to become a fixie some day!). This really interested me so I offered to be support just in case Jim and his buddy Gary Cale had to bail off of the 305 mile route. I met up with Jim and Gary late on Friday night before the race and I was as giddy as a school girl. I am sure Gary was hating me! I met Mike Curiak at the hotel. Jim said something to the effect, "Hey, that is Mike Curiak!" as if he was talking about Michael Jordan or something. Jim introduced himself and I followed. I had no clue who Mike Curiak was and it was just a strange meeting. Here Jim has excited to shake is hand and at the time it was just like anyone else (well, I guess he is just like everyone else, but not!).

Fast forward to the pre race meeting. All of a sudden there were new rules put on the riders that they didn't have a clue about. One was that they had to be in Algona, approximately 127 miles away within 10 hours. You do the math: 12.7 mph average on gravel (including stops and B roads!) is not exactly easy for most riders especially with gusts of wind up to 35 mph!). So, that was a huge blow for a lot of people I think. Mentally, all of a sudden this was not going to be a slug across the great state of Iowa, but people had to really be on their toes and likely change their mindset of how they had been planning on accomplishing this great feat. Well, it became apparent very quickly that TI was going to eat up a lot of people. I had the luxury of driving ahead about every 15-20 miles and watching all the riders. While I knew that Curiak and Jeff Kerkove had to be up front when I was in Orange City around mile 25 or so four riders on cross bikes flew by. It seems like they were going 20 plus. I about crapped my pants.

I waited and waited. I think I waited at least 30 minutes before the last riders came through and that was mile 25! I then drove to Primghar which was about mile 45 or so I think. I went for a 4 mile run and waited. What do you know, after my run here came the leaders on their cross bikes. Again, I couldn't believe their speed with another 250 miles to go! A lot of people stopped in Primghar, and a quite a few didn't and probably paid the price with dehydration later on. I waited and waited. It must have been nearly 2 hours before the back of the back came through. People were already dropping out. I couldn't believe it. After saying good bye to Jim and Gary I drove along the course (I had copied their cue sheets onto a tablet of paper). I probably drove for an hour (I think I was about 20-30 miles out of Emmetsburg when I stopped?) I still couldn't catch the leaders! I parked right on top of this hill that was going north to south. The riders were making their way up the hill against the 25-35 mph winds. They were really feeling that hill! The look of fun and agony on their faces were priceless. After I met up with Jim and Gary I drove up to Emmetsburg. I went to Pizza Hut and ate lunch and then went to the edge of town to watch the riders come in. Now at least half the field were gone and riders would trickle in every 10-20 minutes, maybe 30 minutes between riders. People had bailed out and people were loading up their bikes to call it a day. Then, Jim and Gary came and they were doing great, but the goal of making it to Algona in 10 hours was about out of reach as they had rode through some really thick and rough gravel.

We chatted a bit and I drove to the checkpoint in Algona. Very few people were coming in (it was probably about 4:00pm when I got there). There were famished riders hanging out and I believe I had heard, if memory serves, about 11-12 people took off for the finish from Algona. I was in awe. The talk around 6 pm was that there were still riders coming in and the cut off time of 10 hours to get to Algona was being extended. I think they into the checkpoint at about 6:50 or so. They didn't seem to care that it was extended even though there was some gas still left in the tank. Mentally, they were finished. After eating a bit we drove up the course to Forest City where Jim and I are from. Just north of Britt and before Forest City we started catching some of the riders. We were all in awe! We drove out to Pilot Knob State Park where my buddy Tony was camping for the night (the guy that asked me to run the Chicago Marathon!). We put out lawn chairs at the east entrance and FINALLY I had caught the leaders. Guys were flying through the down hill section of the park at 25 miles per hour and when they came to us they were a bit lost as they were suppose to ride a mile of single track, but had missed it. So, Tony and I pointed them in the right direction. I couldn't believe how fresh those guys seemed. Like I told Jim the next day, they sounded like they had just started about 5 minutes ago and hadn't just rode 200 miles with horrendous winds. Unbelievable.

It was about a week or so later I learned of Paddy Humenny. He finished TI V.1 on a mountain bike single speed with 44 X 16 gearing, approximately 71.5 gear inches. That is sick. What is super cool is that Paddy was very encouraging of me for TI V.2 and I will never forget it.

After months of saving, in November of 2005 I bought my first mountain bike.

Part 2 probably won't be until Monday. Going to Missouri for the weekend (without the bike!)

Today was the first day in a month with NO pain. I rode for an hour. The Flight is now a 1 X 8 and I think I need to put the 36 tooth chain ring back on as 32 just is too easy (I say that now!).

Happy training.


Travel Gravel said...

Love this post Paul! Remembering races and influences is always a blast. Always put them in a post when you can, as they can slip away as easy as they come back to you! Have a great time in Missery! I regretted not having a bike when I was there two years ago:(

bontrag said...

Hey Paul. Sounds like you're finding what you needed to get a geared flight going. I was digging around in my toolbox this morning and ran into that cassette I told you about. It's a 9 speed 12-34. It looks a little worn but not terrible. Let me know if you're interested.

Paul said...

Well, I think I will just stick with my 1 X 8 as my shifter is for 8 speed.

I appreciate the offer though!

I will take your Kona off your hands if you want to clean house a bit! %^)

bontrag said...

Hahah, thanks, I think I'll keep it for awhile though:) I just grabbed some centerlock rotors for him. I also switched up the seat, and got the handlebars such that I've got the right top tube length, much nicer on my back now. I've been riding it to campus with a little bit better weather, man, I forget so quickly how much momentum those big hoops get you!

8 speed rocks, my Bontrager is setup with classic last year of xtr 8 speed stuff. Thicker chains, more mud clearance, there's advantages to 8! You'll need a few gears with the extra speeds you'll rolling at with those higher pressure tires.

How'd you setup the front ring?